If you are visiting Ladakh in India or parts of Tibet and come across small yellowish orange (or oranges yellow) berry, you must have encountered with sea buckthorn berry. This extremely sour berry is native to cold desserts of China, Mongolia. It is also found in high altitude Karakoram region in Pakistan.
There appears to be no evidence of the origin of the sea buckthorn. While buckthorn is common name in related genus of plants, however there appears to be no specific reference to meaning of name Sea buckthorn.
Sea buckthorn has been cherished by native Tibetans and Mongolians for its nutritional value and varied medicinal uses. Today it is part of Chinese Pharmacopeia and Mongolian traditional medicine forms for its healing power. Ayurveda compares this “holy fruit of Himalayas” with Amla or Indian Gooseberry in terms rasas (tastes) and its health benefits.
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History of Sea Buckthorn berry
Tracing the history of Sea Buckthorn, can take us 2400 years ago. Ancient Greek scholar, Theophrastus (372-287 BC) and often considered as father of botany, mentions about medicinal use of Sea buckthorn in his text – “Historia Planarum”. References of medicinal and nutritional uses of Sea Buckthorn are also found in 8th century Tibetan medical text – the RGyud Bzi (The Four Books of Pharmacopoeia) and Sibu Yidian (The Four Medical Tantras). Hippophaë means “glittering horse” in Greek; ancient Greeks used that sea buckthorn leaves for feeding war horses. Hence the botanical name of the common sea-buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides. An online mention also suggests that, Greeks believed that it were the sea-buckthorn leaves which made Pegasus, a mythical horse fly. If not fly, they would have definitely helped war horse regain energy and recover from wounds. It was in 12th century; Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan who not only fed his horses sea-buckthorn leaves, but also encouraged his army feed on sea buckthorn berry for stamina at high altitudes.
Today Sea Buckthorn cultivation is done in 1.1 million ha. of land in China, followed by Russia, Mongolia and India. The plant is well adopted to grow in dry, cold climate, at altitudes well over 10000 feet. This plant is also introduced and cultivate in other temperate zones like Central Asia, Canada, Greece and parts of Europe.
Today research on sea buckthorn is very active. Abstract of some research papers on seabuckthorn have been compiled here. Efforts of Chinese research on Sea Buckthorn have paved way for International Center for Research and Training on Sea buckthorn (ICRTS), a global platform for researchers on sea buckthorn. Research wings of Indian Army have been studying sea buckthorn for its uses in combat situations at high altitudes.
Its possible you know this plant; look for other common names of Sea Buckthorn?
Sea-Buckthorn is also known by various names across globe. Some of them are sandthorn, sallowthorn, seaberry, Sea Buckhorn, Seedorn, Olivier de Sibérie (Siberian Olive), Ananas de Sibérie (Siberian Pineapple), argouse, Argousier, Argousier Faux-Nerprun (False Buckthorn), Saule Épineux, Épine Luisante, espino amarillo, Espino Falso, Oblepikha (Greek), Purging Thorn, Rokitnik (Polish), Tindved (Norwegian), Tsermang or Tasru (in Ladakhi), Chharma.
Commonly used parts of Sea Buckthorn
The berries are eaten raw in parts where they grow. However processed berries are distributed across globe. Most commonly used parts of Sea buckthorn are its berries, which includes the pulpy flesh and the seed. Leaves of sea buckthorns are also used for medicinal purpose.
When the berries are presses, the pulp separates out from the cover and the seed. The pulp is essentially the juicy part of the berry. Fatty acids or cream are further separated out of the pulp which is sold as sea buckthorn pulp oil. While remaining juice is often sold directly or sediments in the juice are extracted, dried and sold in powdered form. Essential oil can be extracted from sea buckthorn seeds through supercritical carbon dioxide extraction process. Seed residue remaining after extraction of sea buckthorn seed oil along with outer cover, forms part of sea buckthorn meal which is used as animal fodder.
Uses of Sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn plant has been long used in cold deserts for fuel and fencing. While Sea buckthorn is used as herbs and its leaves, flowers and fruits form medicinal use, it widely used in culinary forms. Pulp is used in making jellies, juices, purees and sauce. Sea buckthorn pulp oil and sea buckthorn seed oil finds its use in cosmetics and anti-aging products because of its benefits for skin and hair. Supplements in form of sea buckthorn oil gel / pill are also popular. Other forms include liquid, juice, plaster, paste, ointment, liniments, tinctures, hand cream, face wash, deodorant, massage oil, syrup etc.
Sea buckthorn leaves are considered healthy for horses. Sea buckthorn leaves, pulp and seed residues are used for animal feed. Look for sea buckthorn meal for your cattle, it is believed to improve mucous membranes of animals including skin, eyesight and milking organs in cattle.
Sea buckthorn tea is made from its leaves. It is part of multi vitamin beverages. The pulp can be fermented and non alcoholic fermented drinks can be made from sea buckthorn. Apart from all this, it is still believed to be underutilized species of plants.
Nutritional value of Sea Buckthorn berry
Like all sour fruits, Sea buckthorn contain vitamin C. However, just notice the Vitamin C content in this “Wonder Berry”. To put some facts into place, average adult requires about 65 mg of Vitamin C daily. Raw Oranges juice provides about 50 mg, Raw Kiwi provides 95 mg, Raw Guava contains 228 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams. Some of the foods highest in vitamin C are listed on Self- Nutrition Data portal. Vitamin C content in Sea Buckthorn berry is around 400-1500 mg per 100 grams.
Similarly Sea buckthorn is rich in Vitamin E or Tocopherols. It contains 120-180 mg of Vitamin E per 100 g of berries. In the list of foods highest on Self- Nutrition Data portal, probably Sea buckborn would come first. Nearest is Wheat gram oil which contains around 150 mg Vitamin E per 100 gram.
Similarly, Sea buckthorn is rich in Vitamin K. It contains Vitamin A in form of carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthine. These fat soluble vitamins – A, E and K get concentrated in sea buckthorn oil. A study found that per 100 gram of various oil (seed oil, pulp oil, fruit residue oil) contains Vitamin E in range of 170-600 mg, Vitamin K in range of 50-230 mg and Caratenoids in range of 30-1800 mg, making Sea Buckthorn oil as amazing source of fat soluble vitamins (except Vitamin D). Vitamin Content of Sea buckthorn also includes Vitamin B1, B2 and B6.
Mineral content of Sea buckthorn include minerals like zinc, selenium, manganese and iron.
Sea buckthorn contains various fatty acids mainly Omega 9 fatty acids (oleic acid), Omega 6 fatty acids (palmitic acid and linoleic acid) and Omega 3 fatty acids (linolenic acid). Most importantly it is one of the highest natural sources of Omega 7 fatty acids (palmitoleic acid), nearly one third of total fatty acids in sea buckthorn. Amount of fatty acid may vary depending on species and geography, however fruit pulp contains about 3-5% of fatty acids while seed has concentrated form of lipids to around 8-20%. Health benefits of sea buckthorn oil can be very much attributed to these Omega 7 fatty acids.
Sea buckthorn contains flavonoids about 0.1-1% by weight, including – Quercetin, Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, Isorhamnetin Kaempfermol, Catechins & Proanthocyanidins, which have amazing antioxidant properties. It also contains high amount of natural plant sterols like beta-sitosterol, and erithrodiol, which exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Amino acids and proteins in Sea buckthorn account to 2-3% by weight, while concentrated in seeds – 18-33% which also makes sea buckthorn meal good animal fodder.
Health benefits of Sea Buckthorn Berry
This herb has been long considered as cure for various ailments. Fruits, leaves, twigs, root and thorn have been used in various medicinal forms. Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian medicine form glorifies health benefits of Sea buckthorn by describing it as “God Sent Medicine”, “holy fruit of Himalayas”, “Liquid gold”, “life oil”. Chinese pharmacopeia classifies sea buckthorn oils as both food and medicine and considered as medicinal use for strengthening stomach, blood circulation and respiration. Earliest efforts compiling health benefits of seabuckthorn was done by Thomas and Li in their book – Sea Buckthorn: Production and Utilization. Some of the health benefits of Sea buckthorn are listed below:
Benefits for Skin
Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Omega 7 fatty acids are considered essential nutrients for skin. They help protect skin cells from photo-aging – damage and aging due to Ultraviolet radiation. It promotes tissue and collagen regeneration, reduce skin wrinkles and premature skin aging. All this makes sea buckthorn oil ideal choice for sunscreen lotion and anti aging products for skin.
Applied topically it can treat burns, irradiation, heal wounds and help in removal of scars and wound mark. It is also used in treatment of various skin diseases like atopic dermatitis, ulcers, acne, pimples, other infections, eczema, psoriasis, frostbite, mucositis, itchy skin, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, skin inflammation, etc.
Russians are believed to have exploited radio protective benefits of sea buckthorn for skin; a review says Russian cosmonauts use its oil for protection against radiation burns in space. Another review says – Russians treated radiation burns after Chernobyl disaster by seabucktorn oil. A study though confirms radioprotective attributes of sea buckthorn extract.
While a host of skin care products around sea buckthorn have been launched, we believe, it is good for nourishment of skin, its growth and skin regeneration.
Benefits for Hair
What is good for skin is often good for hair! Quite true Sea buckthorn oil is considered good for hair growth and healthy scalp. Its nourishing oil, strengthens hari roots and improves hair luster. This may be the reason why it got its name Hippophae – “shiny hair” and have been used traditional for horses with glittering hair.
Betulinic acid is one component which is considered good for hair growth is also present in Sea buckthorn. Leaf extracts of sea buckthorn also offers anti fungal properties for treating dermatitis and dandruff. In 2009, Chinese researcher found that sea buckthorn oil wards of demodex, a parasite in hair follicles, which is reason for hair loss, graying and rosacea.
Sea buckthorn oil shampoos, soaps, conditioners, lather and hair mask are some commercial products exploiting benefits of seabuckthorn for skin.
Treating Respiratory Disorder
In China, sea buckthorn juice and sea buckthorn oil is used to cure cough, sore throt and other respiratory disorders. Berry oil is considered an expectorant and used in treatment of asthma, lung phlegm, pharyngitis, bronchitis and cough. These benefits could be attributed to anti-inflammatory flavonoids present in berry.
Treating High Altitude sickness
Sea buckthorn berry juice is marketed in India as Leh berry by a government defense organization. Till 1995, farmers in Ladakh region had been using sea buckthorn for fencing and often considered a week. Indian Army lab had been researching on health drinks which do not freeze at sub zero temperatures often required in combat situation and high altitudes, which landed them with sea buckthorn. Indian Army is largest consumer of Leh berry and apart from healthy nutritious drink is considered to treat high altitude sickness. At high altitudes, you need to tolerate the stress of cold hypoxia, owing to low oxygen pressure and isolation. With Vitamin C, E, A and flavonoids, it serves as strong antioxidant and has been found highly beneficial for soldiers at high altitude. Sea Buckthorn juice reduces Cerebral and pulmonary syndromes associated with high altitude sickness.
Anti Cancer properties of Seabuckthorn
With radio-protective effect, Sea buckthorn helps prevent cancers caused by UV exposure. A study published by Indian Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, reported anti cancer and radio protective properties of hippophae extract. Sea buckthorn seed oil is found to have shown anti tumor effects in lab. Bioactive chemicals in sea buckthorn have anti-oxidant and anti cancer properties and help in prevention of cancer of gastro intestinal tract.
A powerful Anti-oxidant
Sea buckthorn is rich source of Vitamin C, E and minerals like Zinc and selenium which have high anti-oxidant properties. Studies have been published in several journals confirm this benefit. Traditionally sea buckthorn has been used in reduction of mental aging. It protects tissues of vital organs like brain and heart form oxidative stress of free radicals.
Sea Buckthorn improves Cardiovascular health
Traditionally, it has been used in herbal medicine to treat heart problems. Animal studies have shown that sea buckthorn reduces risk of heart related diseases. A study published in Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation, showed that dried sea buckthorn berries reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Flavonoids in Sea buckthorn are believed to regulate blood pressure, treat heart diseases, improve heart function and reduce stress on heart tissue.
Treating Cerebrovascular diseases:
Seabuckthorn flavonoids and other active ingredients act as wonderful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agent and protect brain tissues from damaging effect of free radicals and toxins. It is believed to prevent diseases like cerebral ischemia, cerebral thrombosis, cerebral infarction and cerebral arteriosclerosis. Rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients it reduces headache, dizziness and increases mental attention. Sea buckthorn juice is good for people recovering from hemiplegia, aphasia, dementia and other symptoms.
Sea Buckthorn prevents Ulcer
Hippophae has been used in folk medicines for treatment of gastric ulcers. Lab results with sea buckthorn seed oil has also confirmed the same. It contains vital vitamins like Vitamin A, E and K which are essential for the internal membrane of gastro intestinal tracts. It reduce inflammation of stomach, normalizes production of gastric juices and thus prevents ulcers.
Prevent damage of liver
Studies have shown that sea buckthorn is good for liver and prevents its damage from toxic chemicals. Clinical trial has shown that it normalizes liver enzymes, secretion of bile and reduces liver inflammation and thus prevents liver cirrhosis. Seabuckthorn contains some organic acids like malic acid and oxalic acid, which have role in protecting the liver from toxic antibiotics. Lecitin and other phytochemicals have similar contribution in protection of liver.
Sea buckthorn for Healthy Prostate
Lycopene present in Sea buckthorn is considered to keep prostate and colon cell healthy.
Healthy Eye and Sea buckthorn
Vitamin A, Vitamin E and other fatty acids are considered to support eye health. Sea buckthorn has protective effect on mucous membranes of various body tissue including tissues in eye. Mucus membranes are protective in nature and offers functions like moisturizer and lubrication. It reduces inflammation and has shown benefits in treating eye disease like trachoma, protruding eyes goiter, keratitis bubble, eyelid burn and conjunctivitis etc. Sea buckthorn eye ointment is generally made from berry oil which is used to treat eye externally. Oral intake of sea buckthorn oil is also helpful for eye health.
Vitamins in sea buckthorn help in cleaning and whitening effect on teeth. Sea buckthorn oil acts as natural exfoliating agent and helps remove teeth stains. High Vitamin C helps in prevention of scurvy and bleeding gums.
Vitamin C deficiency
With rich source of Vitamin C, sea buckthorn juice can be used in treating vitamin C deficiency diseases including scurvy, bleeding of gums, white nails, fatigue, dry skin, poor healing of wounds and dry hair. Benefits of Vitamin C can be worth reading.
Sea buckthorn Calms Nerve
Seabuckthorn contains chemical 5-HT (serotonin) which acts as neurotransmitter and helps regulate emotions naturally. Similarly benefits of high Vitamin C helps in mental alertness. Drinking Sea buckthorn helps relive headache.
Anti Inflammatory properties of Sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn offers properties of reducing inflammation in body and thus assists in treatment of several disease symptoms. Studies have confirmed anti-infllammaotry properties of sea buckthorn extract. These properties can be attributed to high Vitamins and flavonoids. Sea buckthorn can be used for healthy cardio vascular system, reliving joint pains, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Anti bacterial property of Sea buckthorn
A study with sea buckthorn seed extract have confirmed anti bacterial properties. Oil can be used in prevention of infection.
Seabuckthorn oil has been traditionally used in reliving pain. Possibly this can be attribute to anti inflammatory property of Sea buckthorn.
Sea buckthorn benefits weight loss
Omega 7 fatty acids in sea buckthorn are considered helpful fatty acids which signals body for stopping fat storage. A popular show – Dr. Oz show had demonstrated through various reviews weight loss benefits of sea buckthorn berries. Drinking of sea buckthorn juice has been promoted for low body mass. More studies are required to confirm the efficacy of sea buckthorn and weight loss.
Healthy Gastro Intestinal Tract
Nutrients in Sea buckthorn helps in maintaining mucus membrane and thus providing lubrication and protection of gastro intestinal tract. It helps in preventing GI tract diseases like ulcers, upset stomach, stomach ache, constipation, dyspepsia.
Helpful on GERD
Read this wonderful article on benefits of Sea buckthorn for Gastro Esophageal Reflex disorder (GERD). Sea buckthorn is believed to normalize gastric acid production. It protects mucus membrane from irritation of gastric juices and are helpful reliving symptoms of GERG including heartburn.
This can be attributed to presence of Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Omega 7 fatty acids in Sea buckthorn.
Sea Buckthorn helps build, restore and improve immune function. Flavonoids and bioactive ingredients in sea buckthorn have properties to regulate secretion of digestive enzymes, remove toxic substance from body through antioxidant effect and other benefits.
A study has confirmed sea buckthorn and its immunomodulatory effects. A similar in-vitro study found flavones from Seabuckthorn berry helped modulate production and level of signaling molecules associated with immune function and inflammation.
Sea Buckthorn and Thyroid function
Flavonoids in sea buckthorn help regulate thyroid function and thus reliving hyperthryroidism or hypothyroidism. Thyroid malfunction often results hormonal changes and associated disease in women. Sea buckthorn is good for your thyroid function.
Gengis Khan using Sea buckthorn to increase stamina of his army men was possibly first human study which confirmed efficacy of sea buckthorn as stamina and endurance building material. It was national drink in Beijing Olympics of 2008 and considered “Fruit of Champions”.
Vitamins in this berry helps in reducing common symptoms like fatigue such as low energy and muscle tension and helps sound sleep.
Health benefits of Sea buckthorn Tea
Sea buckthorn Tea is made from the leaves of Sea buckthorn and contains vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and fatty acids. It possibly provides same benefits as the fruit itself – lowering blood pressure, promoting heart health, reducing cholesterol and increasing body healing.
Prevent blood clotting
Vitamins in Sea Buckthorn offer it properties resulting in inhibiting blood platelet aggregation and thus blood thinning. It is helpful in prevention of diseases like Thrombosis.
Relieve Menopause Symptoms
Vitamin E and Omega 7 fatty acids help in healthy mucus membrane in Vagina and offers lubricating effect to inner membrane. It thus helps relieve vaginal dryness and Menopausal sysmptoms.
Healthy Nails and Collagen Production
Berry is rich source of Vitamin E, A, Omega 7 fatty acid which are vital for collagen formation and thus healthy nail. It can be used as alternative to vitamin supplements for common nail problems.
Ecological benefits of Sea buckthorn plant
Sea buckthorn is highly multipurpose plant. It has advanced and highly developed root system and play vital role in preventing soil erosion in desert region. It is also efficient nitrogen fixing plant and plays vital role in nitrogen cycle and soil fertility. The plant is home to various bird species; in China alone 51 out of 350 species in Tibet region depend on sea buckthorn for food. The plant can tolerate extreme temperature and plays vital role in global climate change. It has been included as Sub-Mission on Cold Desert Ecosystems in Green India Mission —a part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
How to use Sea buckthorn?
- Sea buckthorn oil can be directly applied to skin areas of sun burn.
- In case of mouth ulcers, apply drop of sea buckthorn oil directly to ulcers 2-3 times a day. Ulcer should heal in couple of days.
- Sea buckthorn oil can be applied to hemorrhoids infection area. It will not only relieve pain but also hemorrhoids will disappear and get healed.
- Apply sea buckthorn oil to any skin cut, acne, pimples or after shave. It will help in quick healing of damaged skin.
- People in Ladakh mix sea buckthorn juice in flour to get “rich” flour for their chapattis
- Apply Sea buckthorn oil to your dry skin, you will find it improving.
- Drink glass of sea buckthorn juice if you are suffering from cold or sore throat.
- Try out making Sea Buckthorn & Cucumber Moisturizing Mask for clear and healthy skin
Side effects of Sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn fruit is found to be safe for human and animal consumption. Study has found it safe for consumption lasting up to 90 days. Consumption of sea buckthorn leaf or extracts can be through caution as no studies have confirmed the same, however large population is still consuming.
Sea buckthorn may slow blood clotting process and so consumption after surgery, delivery should be moderated. Sea buckthorn supplements should be through advice if you are medication for any particular disease.
Where to buy Sea Buckthorn
Sea buckthorn juice should be available in your supermarket nearby. Else purchase sea buckthorn products online. Organic Sea buckthorn berries are generally wild variety of sea buckthorn and are considered superior to one’s cultivated.
Has Sea Buckthorn worked for you?
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